It’s a fantasy, a goal, a need, a desire, an achievement, a security blanket, a necessity. Love can be all of these things and more, you name it. We are told we can find love, but how? That’s where the confusion sets in.
Let’s stop for a moment and study that question. Its phrasing implies that love is hidden – that we need to get out there and search for it. If we peek into enough boxes or scour enough of the countryside, it will turn up. But what if it isn’t hidden at all? What if it’s right under our noses, available for the taking? What if we’re so busy searching under rocks and behind trees, that we’re going about it all wrong? Maybe we’re looking for love in all the wrong places?
Putting some effort in
I’ve loved all of my pets with a fierceness bordering on obsession. I stare at them adoringly and buy them loads of toys and treats. I would willingly run in front of a speeding train to scoop them off the tracks. Then my kids came along and the intense love I felt for my dogs and cats morphed into something even stronger. I not only stare at them adoringly and buy them excessive amounts of toys and treats, the speeding train rescue is a given, and I would gladly jump off a cliff or throw myself in front of a bullet to save them. This kind of love finds us. It’s inescapable.
We can also experience an intense love for our parents, siblings, best friends, or sometimes even co-workers. These are often comfortable, warm, fuzzy loves. And we’d probably take on a speeding train for them as well.
Then there’s romantic love. The love we try to “find”. The love that no speeding train or cliff could ever stop (or so we fantasise) and first step to finding it is putting some effort in searching for it.
Withstanding the pressure
The pressure is put on us at an early age. Think about the movies we grew up with: “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderella”, “Pocahontas”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast. The beautiful maiden always finds the perfect man. No pressure. It’s easy. All you have to do is be smart, eloquent, elegant, beautiful, witty, spunky, brave, strong, caring, sassy, quirky, steadfast, stubborn, lovable, beautiful… You get the picture.
While these movies might be sweet and uplifting, they’re also unrealistic and anxiety-inducing. I don’t look like Cinderella or Ariel. I’m not witty or charming. I get tongue-tied and blurt out stupid words. I can’t even sing. What chance did I have? Not much of one with that predetermined expectation constantly weighing me down.
In pure Disney form, I just accepted that “someday my prince will come” (Snow White promised it). With that high expectation and a self-imposed timeline of “now!”, I’ve chased away more than one good catch. I would pull out my best “spunky, yet lovable, princess” persona and behave stupidly. I was out of my element. I was trying to emulate a cartoon character, and I was forcing this poor, unsuspecting guy into the role of Prince Charming.
After I’d found Prince Charming, I decided I’d better quickly lock him down before he figured out that, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t a Disney princess. It should have come as no surprise that he would eventually run. It could have been due to my constant doe-eyed gazes or my unrealistic ideas of the perfect 24/7 romance – flowers, dancing, sunshine, smiles, sassiness, and candlelit dinners. It was exhausting, impossible to maintain, and completely unnecessary. I don’t even like flowers and dancing. Sassiness and candlelight are good though. Hmmm, maybe I was onto something. Maybe it was time for some introspection.
Working on your own personality
It wasn’t until I realised that finding love didn’t mean an all-out search and seizure mission, followed by all manner of forced quirky elegance, that I finally calmed down enough to look inward. I needed to figure out what I wanted. I started to think about other people’s characteristics, mannerisms, humor, and personality traits that make me happy. If those characteristics make me happy, it stands to reason that if I had them, maybe they’d make my perfect partner happy, as well.
So instead of trying to channel the perfect princess and desperately seek out someone else’s idea of Prince Charming, I started working on the personality traits I admired and, low and behold, I attracted those same types of people.
I love dogs, so I volunteered at my local animal shelter. I love reading, so I frequented bookstores and libraries. I like art, so I went to gallery openings and craft fairs. I admire kindness, so I show it to others whenever possible. I like a good sense of humor, so I constantly work on mine. I practice kindness and funniness on strangers on the bus or in line at a store. Sure, maybe my perfect mate wasn’t there at the time, but maybe a sibling, boss, or neighbor was. Maybe they’d tell me I’d be perfect for someone they know and give me a phone number. And, if that didn’t happen, I still earned karma points.
It’s not about where or how you find love. It’s about finding yourself. I know it’s cliche, but finding out who you really are and what you appreciate and value, honors and respects you and your future mate. And when you find yourselves in each other’s orbit, worlds might collide (in a good way – maybe even in a sassy, spunky way). It’ll be worth the wait and, I’m willing to bet, you’ll enjoy the journey.